Lessons from a lawn-free makeover

Here's how landscape designer Roberta Walker got rid of her turf and started over

Lawn-free makeover

Thomas J. Story

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Another view

  • Lawn-free plants

    Plants viewed from the drive-way include ‘Hot Lips’ salvia and ‘Cl. Cécile Brünner’ rose.

“The water I use now is probably less than a third of what I once used for the lawn. I go out there three times a year to prune and shape plants” –Roberta Walker

Choose the right plants

Drought-tolerant evergreens ― chosen for color, texture, and lushness ― fill the garden. They include dwarf agave, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, coreopsis, lavender, nandina, rosemary, santolina, and yucca.

Layer plants on berms

To plant the berms, Walker arranged low-growing varieties at the base and tallest ones at the top so that all plants are in view. She groups them to give a sense of mass, mixes them for textural contrasts, and staggers them for a more natural effect.

Give them space

Walker’s plants grow in well-spaced clusters, allowing their natural forms to shine. Her advice: Read plant tags. Match plants’ mature sizes with the area you’re filling so you won’t have to prune them into submission. “If you plant for the right space, you won’t be fighting your plants,” she says.

Include permeable paving

Flagstone paths curve from the street and the driveway to the front door. To give the flat ground more interesting topography, Walker built a low berm of soil on either side of the main walkway. Between the paths and the berms, she laid down weed cloth and topped it with permeable pea gravel so excess water can soak into the earth rather than run off into the street.

Design:  Roberta Walker Landscape Design, Sacramento (916/485-4769)

Next: More ways to lose your lawn

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